Liya Kebede is on the cover of Vogue Paris’ May issue photographed by Inez & Vinoodh.
The new issue of Vogue Paris has been revealed and it features none other than early 2000′s glamazon Liya Kebede. And just like every time a non-white model gets featured anywhere, we all “celebrate” this development thinking that it will mean something else, that it will signal a change towards more diversity, all while knowing damn well that it won’t.
As is part of our ritual, we look back to the last time a model of the same ethnicity was featured in a similar position. In this case, we come to the realization that it’s been five years since a black model covered the French glossy, roughly the same amount of time that Emanuelle Alt has been editor-in-chief of the magazine. In March of 2010, model Rose Cordero had the same honor, a beautiful close-up portrait of her face that took up the whole cover.
Rose Cordero on the cover of Vogue Paris March 2010 issue, photographed by Mert & Marcus.
And back in 2010, when the cover was revealed, the same thing was written: “Wow, a black model has landed the cover of this major fashion magazine!” Of course there was also the requisite tour down memory lane (or, in this case, a look into the archives that now conveniently live on the blessed Internet) to determine the time before that a model held such a distinction. It was the first cover that featured a solo black model since May of 2002, when – surprise! – Liya Kebede was featured.
Andre J and Carolyn Murphy on the cover of the magazine’s November 2007 issue, photographed by Bruce Weber, and Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss on the cover of the magazine’s November 2008 issue, photographed by Mario Testino..
So this means that in the last 15 years, and under the direction of two separate editors-in-chief, only two black models had three solo covers for the magazine. Carine Roitfeld, who was at the helm from 2001 to 2011, has a marginally better track record than Alt (so far). She featured Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss together in 2008, and also in 2008, Noemi Lenoir split a cover with Laetitia Casta. As a technicality, we can also add the cover that featured Andre J, the bearded party-promoter/model alongside Carolyn Murphy in 2007. But five covers out of about 100 is hardly a cause for celebration.
Liya Kebede on the cover of Vogue Paris May 2002 issue, photographed by Inez & Vinoodh.
So now for one split second, every five years – if luck has it – we celebrate a publication for simply getting with the times. At this point, a consistently white-washed cover is boring and showcases a lack of imagination, two things that fashion should never be. With the wide array of black – and let’s not forget Asian, Latina, and other races – models that are at the top of their game, there is literally no excuse to treat a diverse cover like a special unicorn. Let’s look forward to a time where we can celebrate the fact that we didn’t need to go on a deep Internet search to figure out the last time somebody not white was on the cover of a magazine. Imagine that.
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